Night Drive – Christmas can be murder

6 mins read

Frightfest presents Night Drive, on digital from October 11th

The sun may be beating down, but it’s Christmas in the City of Angels. Here we meet ride-share driver Russell (AJ Bowen), a man busily trying to earn a living on the streets of Los Angeles. Russell is a nice guy, his car journey’s full of conversation, his customer service above and beyond the norm as he walks people to their door, and even helps with their shopping. But, ride-share drivers never quite know who their next customer will be, and as night falls, Russell finds himself picking up a young woman named Charlotte (Sophie Dalah). Charlotte is enigmatic, chatty and alive with energy. And as she sits in the rear of the SUV, Russell can’t help but find himself slightly captivated by her presence.

Charlotte’s instructions are simple; Russell is to drive her to her ex-boyfriend’s house. There he is to wait in the car while she collects her belongings. Simple, right? After a few extra dollars of encouragement, Russell agrees, pulling up outside the house and patiently waiting while Charlotte goes inside. As she reappears, she is carrying a small case, but this is no leisurely jaunt back to the car; instead, Charlotte runs toward the vehicle, asking Russell to step on it as soon as she is safely inside. A confused Russell does as she asks just as a man leaves the house, intent on stopping the getaway.


It is now clear to Russell that Charlotte may be far more complicated than he thought. But, the night has only just begun, and soon Russell will find himself engulfed in murder, mystery and mayhem. Part road movie, part horror, part crime caper and part science fiction, Night Drive is nothing if not adventurous. Its genre-bending screenplay offering us a Breaking Bad inspired crime caper before hitting us with a final twist of enormous proportions. But, don’t worry, I am not about to disclose anything that may ruin your enjoyment here. So, instead, let me return to the Breaking Bad similarities at play.

As stated at the beginning, Russell is a good guy, but he is also bored, frustrated and lonely. You see, Russell’s life hasn’t quite worked out the way it was supposed to. First, his old job designing apps led to a humungous mistake, as he sold the rights to his product before its global success, losing a shit load of money in the process. Second, his wife left him when the money ran out, his only option to become a ride-share driver to make ends meet. All in all, Russell isn’t happy, and in turn, he spends most of his time wishing he could turn back the clock and give life a second go. But, alas, that’s not possible, and so here he is driving all night to make a living. Russell’s predicament reflects a similar mid-life crisis to Brain Cranston’s Walter White as Breaking Bad opens.


When Charlotte climbs into his vehicle, her restless energy sparks Russell’s interest. After all, he could let her out at any point, but he doesn’t. The truth is he craves the excitement she brings. Here, Charlotte represents the same boundless energy we see in Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman. Her youthful optimism and carefree approach trapping Russell in its wake. As the night wears on and events become uncontrollable, the relationship between Charlotte and Russell becomes ever more complicated, her youthful energy and optimism wearing thin as Russell attempts to take control. However, maybe he was always in control but eager for an adventure? Which is precisely what Charlotte offers him. But, don’t be fooled because there is far more behind their encounter than it initially appears. And by the end, you find yourself asking the question, who is leading who?

Directed by Brad Baruh and Meghan Leon, Night Drive embraces its two-person play roots throughout. The film’s richly dark humour, almost theatrical in construct and delivery. Here, the relationship between Russell and Charlotte takes centre stage, the ever-decreasing circles of their night beautifully written, directed and performed. But, it is within the final act that Night Drive truly finds its voice, the Breaking Bad inspired crime caper descending into something far more fascinating. Its final scenes confirming what we always thought; even nice guys can be corrupted by power.

Rating: 4 out of 5.


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